Tag Archives: El Bulli

elBulli of Desire

29 Feb

A bit of background here.  I wrote this about 4 weeks ago, prior to the start of the new season at Next.  A lot has happened since then, like taking fifth at USA women’s curling nationals and scoring season tickets to Next.  This reflection took me about a week to rationalize and write.  You probably know that my mind works very differently then most and when I am committed to something I am in for it.  I love my work in the culinary field and I love my desire to train for sport.  This post took a lot out of me and it tested my mind.  In a few days I will be dining at Next for the elBulli menu and I will report on the meal as I always do.  First, here is my emotional rant on my obsession to dine at the top restaurants in the world.-DK

Tell me if I am crazy. Tell me if I am sane. I have the most amazing story and I have no idea how to rationalize it. This has everything to do with Next and the elBulli dinner. It is sad, possibly refreshing, and quite insane; but it really happened.  I feel my decision every day since I found out.

If you are into food, I mean serious big boy food you know that elBulli closed this past year. You also know that Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are doing an elBulli inspired menu at their super cool and exclusive restaurant Next.  Yes, I have dined there twice and have gotten tickets for the thai dinner too. So, to some I am one lucky girl with fast fingers.  This past month; we or well the whole culinary world has been patiently anticipating the elBulli dinner, maybe not patiently; but has been stalking them on Facebook, twitter, their website, etc to find out when the tickets will hit the interwebs.

Last week Next announced that tickets were not on sale, but you could throw your name in the hat to see if you get to be a part of the first week of dinners for the new menu. What the hell I thought I’ll throw in my name as I have many times before to see if I get in. I had no idea what I was thinking or what crossed my mind when I wrote down the date. Maybe my sister since the date I selected was her birthday or the fact that my boss may want them. I had no idea; I was on auto pilot.  Nor was I prepared for the feeling that I could be consumed by these tickets, by elBulli, by the fact that my mind and my stomach craved that ticket.

Monday night after my late night of curling in the land of cheese, I got the email from Next. OMG! I got the email!  No way!  I instantly dropped to my knees.  I was overcome with a full range of emotions. I could not control my anger, I could not control my tears, and a smurk was on my face. Someone asked me if I was ok. In that moment I had to collect myself and think fast.  I was at a curling club with “meat and potatoes” people.  The people who surrounded me would not understand what just happend; I realized the fact that no one would get it; get elBulli.  If I told them that I was just invited to attend the most exclusive dinner in the city and how much it cost, they would think that I was off my head. The curlers were probably thinking someone died or a bad thing just happend at work. They would not be thinking ah that poor girl can not attend dinner at Next for the elBulli dinner; that is so sad. 😦

In that instant I was totally numb. I was shaking when I made 3 phone calls to 3 fellow foodies. I was in shock. Nothing could have prepared me for the reaction to getting that email from Next and what emotions followed.  First to overwhelm me was the rationalization of my feelings, what it meant to dine there and what my desires are.  One could say it started out as dinner, then it turned into a philosophical reflection of desire, gluttony, and experience.  This existential examination of the self  that was brought about by dinner.  No one told me that this ticket would turn into both a cloud of dispar and a beam of enlightenment. My philosophy profs from college would be so proud.

Yes, I wanted to go to Next to experience the dinner of a lifetime. The ticket invite was sitting in my mailbox, but the date I picked fell on the week of my Curling National Championship in Philly. No big deal I thought. Yes, it freaking was. These were the two things I wanted so badly and I knew I could only have just one. Option 1: the dinner of my life.  Option 2:  six years of training for curling and years of desire to work my way back to represent the United States again in another sport. A battle arouse between gluttony and persistence. elBulli or curling. I wanted both; only one could win.  I suddenly thought that I could swing both.  Thank god the sound of reason stepped in and told me that a $300ish dinner could turn into a $1000 faster than I could think. For me to go to Philly then back to Chicago to return to curl in Philly would be possible, but INSANE. All I could think of was where is my sugar daddy with my G6 when I really needed it?   The inner me kicked in and said “Think E think”.  If I flew back to the Chi to eat and then flew back it would be fantastic and then cat lady crazy.  This is the kind of crazy you can not explain to non-culinary people. Normal eaters would think I am utterly insane, in fact I am already kinda nuts, but this would be institutional crazy.

Anyone who knows what I do in the culinary world and knows how persistent I am; how real I am; or how respectful I am towards the profession.  These individuals know that if there was anyone who could get tickets to elBulli it would be me. Yes, I DID. I am also big into sharing and providing opportunities to others in the realm of food. In my heart and my mind I knew that I could give up those tickets to elBulli in a moment. Once I saw the email, I was enveloped with emotion.  All I wanted to do was to hold those tickets closer to my heart and tell myself I wanted to go.  This was going to be the dinner of my life.  A dinner as if the master was there. I felt like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka, I want it all! Why? A desire to dine at all the top restaurants in the world, to collect food memories like Pokemon. Yes! Is that shallow? How can I make sense of this?  Can you? How am I bound to this? Letting dinner go should be easy. I mean saints do it all the time, maybe that is what I am; the future saint of the culinary world. Now that is pretty funny… I had to repeat that I was not going to dinner over and over.  That I could not go and it was ok.

Some of you maybe thinking how could you give up these tickets? I thought the same. I challenged myself to sit back for one moment and think why I wanted it so bad. The exclusiveness of it, dining as if I was at elBulli, to follow the father of modernist cuisine, or a slew of other reasons. My ultimate answer was to have a moment.  A moment that I could never have again.  To eat what I only dreamed of and saw on the pages of Ferran Adria’s cookbooks or in the video I saw of his cuisine. To examine this issue more I talked with a chef friend.  After speaking with B and discussed a Master Chef teacher of ours another realization hit. How much can you really eat? How many dinners can you have that are truly novel and real? When do you get sick of dining out searching for that perfect moment? All cuisine in one form or another does becomes passé.  Or does it?  How could I trade all my training to reach a possible world championship in a sport  for a dinner?   I know what this dinner means, but looking at the entire picture is it really that important. It depends right?

Right now I am over the fact that I turned down my dinner to elBulli. Yes, I cried when I watched Grant’s videos he released for the dinner. Inside of me I have culinary faith and persistence. Although I turned down this dinner of a lifetime I can sense that the karma will come back; a second chance could be in my future.  If not for this dinner, then another experience that I can not see right now. What I am, is me. In my odd life good things happen to me and surprises are around every corner. I am no different any one else who wants to eat, I go for the experience and I’m hungry.

There will always be another dinner, another chef, another master, and another moment. Do not be consumed by the flurry of emotions that entangle you in these instances of loss. Just breathe. It is ok. It is dinner. Keep in mind that billions of other people do not understand elBulli, to them what it is, is just dinner. One can not forget that. IT IS JUST DINNER. The culinary Buddha has spoken.

You are thinking where did my tickets go. Back into the tumbler?  Maybe another story for another time.  I do hope to hear back from the people who went to my dinner somewhere in the cyber world. The reaction now will be worth the wait. Those stories will tell me if I made the right choice. Until then I am still hitting my refresh button, but not as frequently as I did before. Culinary enlightenment has occurred, a sense of peace has entered my stomach. I may have had my fill and I am ready to start my new chapter in my culinary life. To share what I have had and what I will experience, to bring clarity to what it all is. The emotional attachment to the freznie of high end dining and that the perfection of food preparation can occur at home. Now that is real!